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Sulfoxaflor may put dozens of species at risk of extinction

US EPA seeks measures to protect endangered species from common insecticide

by Britt E. Erickson
April 5, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 12


Hailed as a safer alternative to organophosphates, neonicotinoids, and other insecticides, sulfoxaflor may harm hundreds of endangered species and is likely to put 63 of them at risk of extinction, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concludes in a final evaluation, released March 30. The agency is working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and pesticide makers to mitigate some of the risks identified in the report.

The EPA released a draft evaluation of the risks of sulfoxaflor to endangered species in July 2022. Since then, it has proposed changes to the pesticide’s label to help protect vulnerable species. The agency included those changes in its final evaluation and still determined that sulfoxaflor is likely to harm more than 462 endangered species, including more than 300 plants.

Sulfoxaflor is used to combat aphids and other difficult-to-control insects on several crops. It requires fewer applications than other commonly used insecticides, according to the EPA. But environmental groups and beekeepers have been raising concerns for many years about the insecticide’s harmful effects on bees. The EPA’s final evaluation shows that the effects go beyond just bees.

“In spite of efforts to lessen the harm it causes, this one insecticide is likely to drive the Miami tiger beetle, Dakota skipper, rusty patched bumblebee and 60 other endangered species to extinction,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says in a statement. “The EPA needs to prohibit sulfoxaflor’s use immediately in the places where these endangered species live,” she says.



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